Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jim Irsay Makes THE DECISION

After 14 years, multiple playoff seasons and a Super Bowl ring, Peyton Manning has been cut from the Indianapolis Colts.  The Colts are going to draft Andrew Luck to be their QB of the future and save themselves $28 million dollars in the process.

Here's the thing:  I don't hate this.  From a business perspective, I think the Colts made the right move.  Peyton is a proven commodity, true, but with his health concerns and his age, he's got 3-5 years at best remaining.  Andrew Luck could play for another 14, and with the new rookie contracts will cost significantly less money, freeing them to pursue other pieces in free agency.  It makes sense.

The arguments for keeping Peyton essentially boil down to moral arguments:
1) The Colts contracted for the $28 million, and they should stand by their word.
2) Peyton has been loyal to the team for 14 years and wants to retire there, he has earned the chance after all he's done for the organization.

The response is that the owners and management have to put fans in the stands and deliver a good product.  If the Colts keep Peyton and pay him the money they owe him, they may have to either pass on Andrew Luck or other players that they will need in the future.  If Peyton gets injured or retires in 3-4 years (after declining quality of play), the Colts will be left with a whole in their roster, and will be a terrible team.  Are they morally required to suffer that scenario in order to provide Peyton his opportunity to retire where he wants?

I'd argue no.  But it does finally, fully expose the owners as motivated purely by money, and we as fans also need to stop berating players and coaches for pursuing greener pastures.  When LeBron James left Cleveland for South Beach, Dan Gilbert threw the biggest hissy fit in the history of sports, a fit that carried into the CBA negotiations and the beginning of this season when he protested to the proposed trade between the Lakers, the Rockets, and the Hornets that would have sent Chris Paul to LA.  We're already seeing management battling with Dwight Howard in Orlando over his future.

My problem with LeBron James was not that he left Cleveland, it was the method in which he did it.  I thought taking out a prime time special to announce it was incredibly narcissistic.  But I don't blame him for going to another team.  He's an adult, he can make his own decisions.  Dan Gilbert was not mad at the method by which LeBron left, he was mad that he lost his Peyton Manning in his prime, and he capitalized on the manner in which LeBron left to help drum up bad will.  But if LeBron were in Peyton's situation, coming off a string of injuries with an uncertain health future in the twilight of his career, but still under contract to eat up a huge chunk of salary cap, you don't think he would jump at the chance to dump LeBron in the ocean to chase a young player that could be the next Michael Jordan?  If you don't, I got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.  By the same token, had Peyton Manning bolted Indy after his first contract to go play in San Francisco or Dallas, I bet Jim Irsay would have been just as pissed and moaned about the unfairness of the difficulty in keeping a star in a small market.

Granted, Jim Irsay can only do this because NFL contracts are not guaranteed.  NBA owners are stuck with the full extent of a contract the instant they sign it.  But they still choose to sign it.  They make draft picks, they okay trades.  Screaming at the sky about the unfairness of a player not being stuck with them the instant they are drafted is disgusting, especially in light of an owner dumping a player that stood by him through the years and built a life with him in order to run off with a hot, younger version in a sports car he bought with all the money he saved.

Owners aren't loyal.  Owners don't have any principles after "maximize income, minimize expenses".  Well, Mark Cuban might.  But ultimately sports is a business, and principles like loyalty will always come second to money.  We've long complained of that on the player side.  Now we're seeing it on the owners' side.  So let's stop haranguing only one side for it.  Let's stop treating owners like innocent victims.  Either we throw up our hands in disgust and stop watching, or we just accept it for what it is, a business, and enjoy what we have while we have it.

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